Back to Some Hard Genealogy . . .

Seems it’s been a while since we did any hard genealogy here.  The best way
to handle that is simply to just jump into it.  Our subject today is one of
my most resistant brickwalls. I’m going to describe my research and solicit
ideas about how to proceed.

So as they  used to say on that early 1960s game show, will our mystery
guest sign in please?
It’s my maternal great-grandfather, Richard William Gines.  He was born in Bossier Parish, Louisiana in about 1860.  The first record we find of him is the 1880 census.  There he’s found with the family of one Edmund Morris, a black man from North Carolina.  They’re in Bossier Parish and Dick is 20 years old and single.  Nearby live Ed Gines and his wife Adlade Dent.  Ed is 21 years old and is believed to have been Dick’s brother.

The next census entry for Richard Gines in Louisiana is in 1900, of course,
there being no surviving census data for Louisiana in 1890. In 1900, our
subject is living in Shreveport with his wife Sylvia LeJay and six children,  including my grandfather, William Edward Gines, who was born in Shreveport in August 1898 (the census actually says 1897). Their residence was on Ashton Street. He was employed as a fireman at the “electrical roundhouse.” [There were several railroads in and around Shreveport]. Richard and Sylvia are said to have been married for 17 years,
putting their wedding sometime in about 1883.

By 1910, Dick Gines is apparently dead, because Sylvia is now listed as the head of the family and Dick cannot be found.  Sylvia lived until August 10, 1940.

I have been to the parish offices in both Bossier Parish and Caddo Parish
and in neither place did I find a marriage license for Richard and Sylvia,
nor did I find a death certificate for Richard.  The Louisiana State
Archives has a death certificate for Sylvia.

The 1880 census describes both of Dick’s parents as having been born in Louisiana. The 1900 survey, however, places his mother’s birth in Georgia. But one of the most interesting leads concerning his parentage may be his marriage to Sylvia LeJay.  The LeJays came to Louisiana from South Carolina–and in fact, there are a number of black folks named Gines in areas of South Carolina near where the LeJays seem to  have originated.  Could Dick’s parents or grandparents have come from South Carolina?

Another interesting potential lead is that there were in Shreveport during Dick’s lifetime, several men other than his presumed brother Edward, named Gines and born in the same general time frame.  They’re close enough to have been brothers.  These include Oscar Gines, Sr., Nathan Gines, and Louis Gines, none of whom stayed within range of a census enumerator for very long.

There is another bit of information that is intriguing.  On the 1870 census,
there is a 20 year old black man incarcerated in the Texas State Prison at
Huntsville whose name could be transcribed as “Dick Gines.”  Could this
person have some connection our Dick Gines? Note that he would be ten years older if the age is correct.

Now the other relevant information is that there are plenty of folks named
Gines to be found in Louisiana in the late 19th century. Almost all of them
are black.  For example, the tax records of Tensas Parish for the year 1899
indicate a Don Gines and a Becky Gines, both black, residing at Marydale
Plantation in that parish.  Elisha Gines and Caroline Gines are residing at
Evergreen Plantation in Tensas.  And there are numerous persons with the
Gines surname in Caddo and Bossier Parishes.  It’s hard to know what the
relationships are.  Some these people are likely related to our Richard
Gines and may provide a clue to his paternity.  There are death records for
some of them in the Louisiana State Archives. Getting those is an important
next step.

This is the point where the unique challenges of African-American research
become apparent.  Since most black people were not identified by name in
the census records until 1870, other records become important.  These may
include tax records, estate records. and plantation records.  Such records
sometimes describe slaves by name; some times they don’t. But by
identifying whites who may have owned slaves, these records can point in the right direction.

Curiously, there seem to be very few white people named Gines in Louisiana,
either now or in the 19th century. I’ve found one Confederate solider named
Gines from Louisiana.  I’ve looked for plantation records, tax records, land
records, church records–no white Gines.

So where do you think we should go next?


7 Responses to “Back to Some Hard Genealogy . . .”

  • Craig says:

    Thanks, Karen! That’s good information and I’ll follow up!

  • Karen Burney says:

    Hi Craig-

    A new attorney was assigned to one of my cases at work today. Her last name was Guynes, pronounced Gines. I thought of you and your quest to find records on your great-grandfather and the origin of his name.

    I did a census search and found lots of Guynes. Some were from Shreveport, Louisiana while others were from South Carolina, Mississippi, Texas, Tennessee and Georgia.

    There were Guynes who owned slaves in 1850 and 1860 in Mississipi.

    There are quite a few Guynes on Family search Labs (death certificates) although most with this spelling are caucasian. Almost all originated from the same area of Mississippi.

    There are however, lots of black Guynes dating back to the 1870 census almost all from Missisippi and more than likely the former slaves and descendents of the white Guynes.

    The early Guynes originated from Scotland.

    Just thought I would share this with you.

    Your cousin, Karen

  • Tamara Curl-Green says:


    I do understand your frustration. My trail runs cold and Dick Gines also. Glad to see you are persisting in your search. I should try more of the same. :) Good luck!

  • Karen Burney says:


    Randy Seaver may be on to something. I have seen my ancestral name Hines, recorded as Himes and Hinds. As well, certain older relatives pronounce it “Himes.” Likewise, I have seen many “Gimes” on a multitude of records. Just a suggestion you might want to explore.

  • Randy Seaver says:

    Craig, how do you pronounce Gines? A hard G, or is it a J sound? Long i, or short i? does it rhyme with lines or Guinness?

    Do you know if/how the pronunciation has changed over time?

    Look for similar sounding names in 1870 in the locality…I’m sure i’m not telling you anything you haven’t thought deeply about!

    Seems to me they either used the slaveowner’s name or they chose a name from somewhere – a place, something they liked, a friend’s name, etc.

    Cheers — Randy

  • Craig says:

    Church records is a good suggestion. That’s pretty labor-intensive in Louisiana because there are so many churches!

  • David says:

    Not knowing the prevalent religion of the area, would church records be something to consider?

    I agree that the death certificates are a must. Once you have those, try to locate corresponding obits.

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